Part two added September 16th, 2017 – see below part one
To be continued………….. part two added September 16th, 2017
Edward Lynch’s Fatal Mistake
Frantic, the brakeman seized flagging equipment from the rear coach and began racing westward towards the ominous beacon. As he reached the switch 65 metres from the rear of his train, he unlocked and threw it open.
Thinking he had saved the day, what he had actually done was to switch the No. 16’s route onto the very track where the Holiday Special was standing immobilized.
Christmas Night 9:21 p.m.
Meanwhile, aboard the “Maple Leaf Flyer”, it was business as usual for engineer Bertram Burrell, who noted the green signals and proceeded as per standard operating procedure. Although no stop was scheduled, he applied the brakes as he approached the Dundas Station to slow his speed along the curving track. The No. 16 consisted of 15 cars and was powered by the biggest locomotive the CNR had in stock. He estimated the train was traveling at about 22 km/hr (witnesses later said it was closer to 35 km/hr). As the train passed the station, Burrell released the brakes and started coasting down the gentle hillside towards the spot where the Holiday Special was standing. Burrell’s vision was obscured by steam and smoke caused by the braking.
At the critical switch, the engine was going at about 20 km/hr when it suddenly lurched gently. Fireman John Kennedy, spotted what was just ahead and shouted “Soak her”. At that instant, engineer Bertram Burrell saw the lights of the Holiday Special closing in rapidly. He instinctively reached for the emergency brake, but it was too little too late. The time was 9:21 p.m., Christmas night, 1934.
On December 26, 1934, the headline read “At least 15 dead, others missing in wreck in Dundas”. The No. 16 Maple Leaf Flyer had indeed crashed into the Holiday Special the night before, pulverizing the rear car into kindling, partially destroying the second car, and tossing a third car on its end—and onto the edge of a 150-foot cliff overlooking the Dundas Valley. A fourth car was smashed in from the rear. The sound of the impact resonated through most of Dundas, and many residents rushed to the scene of the accident.
Immediately upon impact, engineer Bertram Burrell and fireman John Kennedy aboard the locomotive of the Maple Leaf Flyer began hosing down their firebox to prevent a flare-up in their engine. That done, they both joined in the rescue work.
The passengers from the Holiday Special were flung forward at the moment of impact and all the lights of the train went out. For three hours, in almost total darkness, assistance was given only to those who could be found by their screams and groans. Both sides of the track were littered with debris and the bodies of dead and injured passengers thrown from the Holiday Special.
Fire broke out from the demolished rear coach which was sitting partially on top of the No.16 locomotive and revealed a grisly scene of “horrible death and suffering”. Many passengers were also trapped inside the twisted wreckage of the rear cars.
The Rescue Mission
Fortunately, several doctors were aboard the two trains and were able to assist in the rescue effort. Since the accident had occurred only three miles from Dundas, ambulances and medical help arrived almost instantly. Rescue efforts continued on through the night, and by the next morning the final tally was 15 dead and 40 others hospitalized with various injuries. All the dead and most of the wounded were passengers in the two rear cars of the Holiday Special.
It could have been much worse. The impact uncoupled the last four cars of the Flyer, lessening the momentum of the Flyer into the Holiday Special. Two of the four rear cars of the Holiday Special buckled, thereby lessening the effects of the impact to the front of the train and reducing the chance of injury to the occupants.
No one on board the No. 16 Maple Leaf Flyer suffered any injuries.
On January 5, 1935, a coroner’s inquest in Hamilton laid the blame squarely on the front brakeman of the Holiday Special, Edward Lynch, who was arrested and charged with manslaughter. A preliminary hearing committed him to trial, and the case went before a judge and jury for final disposition. to be continued
Added October 19th, 2017 – conclusion